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St Leonards-on-Sea History

Baldslow Mill / Harrow Mill

This smock mill on The Ridge was built by Upfields of Catsfield in 1857. The mill lost its sails in 1900 but continued to work by steam until 1930.

The site of Baldslow Mill was used for one of the beacons lit when the Spanish Armada sailed up the English Channel in 1588.

The mill was purchased by a F Richmond in 1933 who converted it into a residential property.

The name Baldslow is said to have come from Beald’s Hill and is spelled Baldeslei in the Domesday Book.

Baldslow Mill


Situated on the outskirts of St Leonards, Beauport was the residence of General James Murray from around 1766 until his death in 1794. Murray became Governor of Quebec in Canada in 1760 and Beauport was named after a village near Quebec.

The original property was largely rebuilt in about 1860 and later suffered a huge fire that gutted the property in 1924. The current neo-Georgian house was built as a replacement shortly after and later became used as a hotel.

Bottle Alley

The double-decker promenade that runs from Hastings Pier to Warrior Square, was built in the 1930's and is the only one of its kind in the country. The walls have mosaics created from broken glass and originally there were shutters to protect the walk from the rough seas.

Caple ne Ferne

Caple ne Ferne is a Grade II listed building situated at 2 Albany Road in St Leonards-on-Sea. It was built in 1879 for Major Robert Tubbs (a retired army officer) and his French born wife...

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All Saints Street


A mansion named Castleham was situated on a commanding site to the north of Hollington. Built by David Henry Stone in about 1868, Castleham was a delightful example of mid-Victorian Gothic architecture.

The house was demolished in 1977 and the land is now used for Castleham Industrial Estate.

Christ Church

The original Christ Church in London Road was built in 1860 but was was replaced by the current one in 1885. The original church hall still remains. The tower was added to the building in 1894.

Church in the Wood

St Leonard's Hollington Church, which is known as Church in the Wood, was extensively restored in 1865-6 when the present chancel was erected.

Congregational Church

This church situated on the junction between London Road and Pevensey Road was founded in 1863 by James Griffin and designed by Habershon, Spalding & Brock.

The building originally had a green pointed spire. This was quite seriously damaged by the 1987 hurricane and subsequently removed.

Gensing Gardens

Originally laid out circa 1880, Gensing Gardens was a sheltered and warm spot for subtropical plants. Anglesea Terrace, which overlooks the gardens, was built about the same time.

Grand Parade

Grand Parade was built by some of James Burton's workmen as an independent project and was originally called Adelaide Place because Queen Adelaide spent the winter at number 23 in 1837.

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section

Grand Parade Underground Car Park

Stretches 1000 ft from Warrior Square to Undercliff and was built by Sidney little as part of the parade widening scheme. Finally finished in 1938 after a severe steel shortage hindered progress. The old parade was widened by about 25ft towards the sea and a length of 1000ft was hollowed out to provide parking for 200 cars. The sun trap shelters were incorporated on the lower promenade. opened in June 1936 by the Minister of Transport, Mr L Hore-Belisha.

Harrow Lane

Previously named Red Lane, probably due to the quarry/brickyard that was situated at the top.

Hazelton / Bannow Nursing Home

This magnificent building on Quarry Hill dates from 1877 and was designed by the influential architect Richard Norman Shaw.

Hertfordshire Convalescent Home

This was a substantial two storey building on West Hill Road that was initially constructed to house 45 mixed male and female patients. Opened in 1876 by Princess Augusta, the home existed for 102 years...

Read more about Hertfordshire Convalescent Home

Hertfordshire Convalescent Home

Kinema / Curzon Cinema

Originally opened in 1913 as the Kinema, the Curzon Cinema in Norman Road was designed by PD Stonham and later remodelled.

Marine Court

The foundation stone for Marine Court was laid by Mr R. Holland-Martin, the Chairman of the Southern Railway, on 30th November 1936.

Marine Court was built to look like an ocean liner and used designs by Dalgleish and Pullen. At the time it was finished it was the tallest block of flats in the country. It originally consisted of 153 flats and 3 restaurants.

In May 1937 a competition was held to name the new building with a £5 prize. Suggestions included “Sunny South Court”, Monstrosity Mansions”, “Have No Care House”, “Mammon Court” and “Controversy Building”.

Bombing during the Second World War damaged the top 6 floors on the east-facing end of the building.

Methodist Church

The Methodist Church in Norman Road was founded in 1836 and suffered a fire in 1901. After this it was rebuilt by J Weir.

Park Road Methodist Church

This attractive church in Bohemia was designed by Philip H Tree and erected in 1891-2.

Queen Victoria's Statue

The bronze statue of Queen Victoria that stands in front of Warrior Square was unveiled by the Marquess of Albergavenny, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, in December 1902.

The statue has suffered various humiliations including being machine gunned during the war (the statue still has a hole in her knee cap) and her head has been a regular place for traffic cones to be used as hats.

Royal Victoria Buildings

This was a group of buildings on the promenade opposite the Royal Victoria hotel. Built by James Burton as baths in the early days of St Leonards and later used as a group of shops which included a post office, milk bar, library, photographic store and a tea shop which proved very popular supplying refreshments to users of the beach.

These buildings suffered damage during the war and many were reduced to empty shells. An eyesore for locals, not to mention those staying at the Royal Victoria Hotel opposite. The weather took its toll on the buildings too and the block was finally demolished by the council in 1946. 

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section.

Royal Victoria Hotel

James Burton built this hotel in 1828 and it was enlarged in 1903. The entrance was originally at the back so guests could avoid the seafront weather.

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section

Royal Victoria Library

Opened to the public in 1831, Charles Haywood Southall's Royal Victoria Library occupied the East side of the Baths building in front of the St Leonards Hotel (later the Royal Victoria Hotel). The circulating library also served as a post office, bank, and also housed a printing press.

Shepherd Street Fire Station

The first motor fire engine in the Hastings area was called Diana and housed at the fire station in Shepherd Street. Allowing for much faster response times, Diana was gratefully received and attended many fires including the house at Beauport in 1924.


Named after the 18th Century farm that once stood there, Silverhill Junction is where the A21 to London crosses the main road to Battle.

Silverhill Board School

The Silverhill Board School was built on the corner of Sedlesombe Road North and Paynton Road in 1878. The name was changed to Silverhill Council School in 1903. When the new Silverdale Primary School opened nearby at Perth Road, the Junior pupils moved to the new site, but the infants stayed in the original school buildings. The last group of pupils moved to the main site in 1970 and the original building was demolished. The site is now occupied by a block of flats which was built in 1975.

Silverhill Mill / Drapers Mill

A mill existed on the site as far back as 1813 and was replaced in 1838 by a smock mill bought from the West Hill by a miller named Harmer.

The Mill was reconstructed in 1862 but suffered a fire in 1865. Rebuilt again in 1866 by John Upfield, Agricultural Engineers from Catsfield.

The mill became known as Draper's Mill after its owners from 1849 to 1961.

Having stopped work in 1941 and after years of neglect the mill suffered severe damage in a storm and was finally demolished in June 1966 because of its poor condition.

Silverhill Section Fire Station

The Silverhill section fire engine was kept at Battle Road next to Ellis Bros timber yard. In the days before motorised fire engines the heavy draught horses from Ellis Bros were used to pull the appliance.

South Colonnade

Completed in 1828 as a unit of shops situated on the parade in front of the Marina. South Colonade was the site of higher class shops and had living accommodation above.

This once elegant building had degenerated considerably by the end of the 19th Century and was demolished in 1929 prior to rebuilding of the parade in the 1930s.

Spyway School

The Spyway School was a co-educational day and boarding school for children from five to eighteen years. Started as the Woodyates Study Centre, the school was founded in 1973 and moved into more spacious premises at Swanage, Dorset in 1976, when it was renamed Spyway School. Moved to Gillmans Hill in St Leonards in 1983, where it remained until closure in July 1990. Planning permission for 33 new homes on the site of the old Spyway School was granted in 2007.

St John's Church

Situated in Upper Maze Hill, St John's began in 1867 as a temporary daughter-church to Christ Church in London Road. The first permanent church here was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1881, however much of it has been replaced following extensive bomb damage in 1943. The only remaining portions of the church from Blomfield's design are the spire, baptistry and west wall of the nave. The rest of the church as we see it today was remodelled by HS Goodhart-Rendel in 1951.

St Leonards Archway / East Lodge Gateway

St Leonards Archway was built in 1828 and marked the entrance to James Burton’s St Leonards. It was situated on Grand Parade to the East of St Leonards. The archway was later commemorated with a large stone on the seaward side of the road.

Council workmen demolished the stone secretly overnight in 1895, much to the horror of local residents. All that remains of the arch today is a large piece of granite by the roadside. 

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section

St Leonards Fire Station

Originally based in Mercatoria, and then later moved to Shepherd Street. Staff consisted of 13 fire fighters, a superintendent, a surgeon and a secretary.

St Leonards Gardens

Originally laid out as a private garden for the Burton family, St Leonards Gardens was bought by the town for £9,000 in 1879. The gardens had two ponds and a maze, which proved very popular and gave Maze Hill its name. Gothic-style buildings were built around the wooded valley. The gateway to St Leonards Gardens is an imposing Burton building.

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section

St Leonards Motors

Starting out with a small garage on The Green in 1958, St Leonards Motors (SLM) have grown to be one of the areas most successful businesses with expansion taking them to sites at West Marina, Queens Road, Silverhill and now Churchwood Drive in St Leonards.

Read more about St Leonards Motors

St Leonards Motors

St Leonards Parade

St Leonards Parade was part of James Burton’s Colonnade, which was built in 1830. Marine Court now stands in its place.

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section

St Leonards Pier

Designed by R St George Moore and built by Head Wrightson at a cost of £30,000, construction began on St. Leonards Pier in March 1888. Opened by Lord and Lady Brassey on 28th October 1891, much to the annoyance of its rivals the Hastings Pier Company. St Leonards Pier soon became the first home of the Municipal Orchestra. 

Positioned almost opposite the Royal Victoria Hotel, which still stands proud on St Leonards seafront, the shore end had a pavilion at the entrance so that visitors could drive straight to the door and avoid the seafront weather. This pavilion was constructed of intricate ironwork and there was a tollhouse on the left of the entrance that was demolished by a storm on 12th February 1899.

Later a second pavilion was added at the sea end which became the most elegant feature of the Pier. This pavilion ran parallel to the promenade some 200 feet from the shore and was used for dancing, then later as a roller hockey rink.

Further alterations were carried out in 1909, and during the 20s the pier was modernised in a way that totally contradicted its Victorian style and reflected the popularity of American films and the cinema at the time.

St Leonards Pier was cut in half during the Second World War as protection against invasion, the beach end suffered a direct hit from an HE bomb on the 4th October 1940. The remains of the pier were removed in 1951.

St Lukes Church

The Presbyterian Church (now United Reformed Church) of St Luke in Silverhill was established by Doctor William Boyd in 1854 and claims to be one of the earliest Presbyterian foundations in the South of England.

The church building has been enlarged over the years due to overcrowding. The tower and spire were added in 1865. The chancel was added in 1909, along with a larger hall which is now used for Scouts, jumble sales and the Silverhill voting poll.

In the great storm of 1987 the church spire collapsed through the roof and caused great damage. The spire was soon lifted and the repairs were completed by 1990 with a new, but shorter spire.

St Matthew's Church

The original St Matthew's church was built in 1860 with the porch and tower being added in 1874. The newer, much larger St Matthew's church was built in 1885 right next to the original church. However there were insufficient funds to build a tower and spire on the same scale as the church itself. The old church was replaced by a modern hall in 1959 which before that was used as the Parish room.

St Mary Magdalen Church

Designed by Frederick Marrable and built in 1852, St Mary Magdalen Church, just off Warrior Square, is very typical of the town and shows a nice combination of a sloping corner site and use of local stone. The tower with its beacon turret was added in 1872.

St Paul's Church

St Paul's Church was one of many built in the fashionable town of St Leonards in the 19th-century. Designed in pseudo decorated gothic by John Newton and dedicated in 1868, its tower, curiously reminiscent of a Venetian campanile, was a prominent local landmark. The interior was noted for the unusual richness of its fittings, with a lavish use of marble. It was demolished in the 1960s and Norfolk House now stands in its place. 

St Peter's Church

The original design for St Peter's Church in Bohemia was by James Brooks and the building was erected in 1885.

Sussex House

Originally built as the Sussex Hotel in 1863. The yard at the back was used as a market and owned by Decimus Burton.

Also see Burton's St Leonards history section.

Tram / Bus Depot

What is now the bus depot in Beaufort Road was originally home to the Hastings tram fleet. The depot saw its first fleet of trams arrive in July 1905, delivered by train at Hastings Railway Station.

Also see Trams & Trolleybuses history section.

Turkish Baths

This unique building on the corner of West Hill Road and Quarry Hill was built by the Turkish Bath Company Saint Leonard-on-Sea Limited and run as a Turkish Baths from 1863 to 1869 when the company went into liquidation. The building was taken over by the Uplands School in 1871 and used as a girls swimming pool. Finally became a glass making factory in the latter 20th century.

This historic property is currently empty but still boasts a multitude of period features including original Victorian beamed ceiling, pool surround, stained glass windows and staircase. The original pool is still in tact beneath raised floorboards which were added in the 1930's.

Warrior Square

The square was developed during 1853-1864 and was at the time claimed to be "the largest and finest in England" comprising many majestic mansions.

Warrior Square Opera House / 
Royal Concert Hall / Elite Cinema

Erected on the South side of Warrior Gardens and originally opened in 1879 as the 'Warrior Square Opera House'

Designed by RA Hill and WL Vernon, the opera house cost £15,000 to build and contained seating for 1,400 with a grand organ that was formerly used in Lichfield Cathedral.

Many big concert with famous artists were held at the Hall under the direction of Dr John Abram.

The building was renamed 'The Royal Concert Hall' following a visit of The Prince of Wales. A young Winston Churchill gave a talk here in 1901 about his adventures in the South African War.

During the first world war the concerts were abandoned and in 1921 the building was converted into the Elite Cinema.

Unfortunately the cinema got bombed in the Second World War and was re-opened in 1947. More bad luck came in June of the same year when the cinema became the victim of a serious fire which proved to be the end of the building. The story says that the cinema caught fire at exactly midday and the film to be shown that afternoon was titled Blaze at Noon. Luckily the cinema was closed at the time of the fire and nobody was injured.

The Elite cinema building stood derelict for many years and the site was eventually used to build a block of retirement flats called Royal Terrace, thankfully not fated by the cinema’s bad luck. Royal Terrace was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1987.

Westerleigh School and St Leonards College

Founded in 1906, Westerleigh was a private school situated in Hollington Park Road. In it’s day the campus catered for 360 pupils and employed over 40 teachers.

Westerleigh saw many thousands of pupils pass through, including world motor racing champion James Hunt and many distinguished figures from World War II, as well as Richard Mason, the last person reported to be eaten by cannibals in South America.

St Leonards College, situated on the same site, was founded in 1994 and achieved top ranking in Sussex for five years in GCSE grades A to C.

Pitter-Patter Nursery and creche was also part of the complex.

The whole campus closed in the summer of 2004 due to financial difficulties.

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